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What’s making me happy this week

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Both my work and most of my runs are solo endeavors that are perfect for consuming (very specific, audio-heavy) pop culture: podcasts, audiobook, and thanks to an amazing birthday present from my husband, Netflix/Hulu/Prime in my office.

I am challenging myself to record aaaaaaaalllllllllll the pop culture I’m consuming/loving lately, a la my favorite segment of this week and every week: what’s making me happy this week, pop culture or otherwise (<– this is stolen directly from Pop Culture Happy Hour, an NPR podcast that I LOVE, but am not going to mention here. Why? Because it would make the list every week. Check it out.)

1. If I Understood You, Why Would I Have This Look on my Face? My Adventrues in the Art and Sicence of Relating and Communicating By Alan Alda.

In this book, Alan Alda talks about work with scientists, doctors, musicians, autistic children, and even actors (who are skilled communicators from the start, but everyone needs a refresher at times) to help them relate to the audience. Wonderful, clear message which I am already putting into practice with my alterations clients.

2. Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

Part autobiography, part how to guide on how to make the most out of a hotel stay, this book delves into hotel worker culture through the experiences of the author, pointing out the good, bad, and ugly sides of hotel guests form the perspectives of those who work there. You can bet I will always tip the front desk agent now.

3. The Act on Hulu

Damn, this is good. A bit cheesy on the dramatizations, but the acting is superb and the story is so very W. T. F. I’m enchanted.

4. Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Nora McInerny hosts this podcast where people share the terrible, hard parts of life–not in a sensationalized, click-bait way, but with real, honest storytelling that is utterly compelling.

Until next time, what are you loving in Pop Culture lately?

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40 by 40 challenge

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40 by 40 challenge

I am turning 40 this year!

What’s a big birthday without a big project? I needed something that would challenge me, be measurable, but would not make the delicate haystack of my emotions crumble like the foam from the inside of my bathmat after it had been washed one too many times.

The answer: Run 40 half marathon (distances) BETWEEN MY 39th and 40th birthdays!

The only rule I have is the run must be continuous (so no 6 miles in the morning and 7.1 in the evening). Walking, running, racing, intervals are all fair game, but it MUST be a continuous 13.1 recorded by gps.

I am kicking ass at this goal. Let’s recap the first quarter (12/8 – 3/7).

    #1–Kiawah Island Half (appx. 2:28).  Too much to say. This race felt strong and amazing, and this whole weekend was the stuff of which dreams are made.

It was my birthday. I spend the weekend with 18 of my running friends in a giant beach house in South Carolina. I ran a half marathon—which included stopping at the house to use the bathroom and get some candy— in 2:28

  • #2–Sunday morning figure 8 half (2:34).  Why did I think this was slow and steady?  

As you can see, I take visibility very seriously. Spibeams visor (available at http://www.spibelt.com), reflective vest, flashing light on the back, and reflective details on my pants.

    #3–5 am run with the Go with the Flowe group. Ran 9.5 miles with a group that generously waited for me to catch up, and, and then finished the last 3.6 miles on the final.

SO FROSTY AND BEAUTIFUL!

    • #4–Sunday morning run through Old Town (2:38).  This run was forgetable. Not bad, but I must not have been listening to anything amazing because nothing about it sticks in my mind. Usually I can remember exactly what I was listening to when I review the route.  Not here. (Hence no picture)
      #5–MLK Afternoon run (2:36)–Spent the weekend with the family, attempted sledding (until 20 minutes into the expereince, my niece went a little too fast, flipped her sled, and needed stitches in her chin.  She was a champion through the experience.) I HAAAAAAAAAAAATE running in the afternoon, and despite eating pancakes with the family in the morning, still had to make an emergency Starbuck’s stop to get some life-giving bantam bagels.
  • These two kiddos are the best.
    • #6–Windy Sunday morning half (2:48) Listening to Tara Westover’s book Educated.  Some of the descriptions of the abuse she suffered as a child were so real and striking that I felt sick to my stomach.  But I’m glad I had a calm, rainy, cool windy morning to not hurry through the run or hurry through the experience.

    This weather was so perfect for indulging in a good book. It was not really perfect for running. Take speed out of the equation? ALL WEATHER IS PERFECT FOR RUNNING.

    • #7–President’s Day Half.  Slowest one to date, but it was on the heels of leading a spin class.  My legs were TIRED.

    The park is damn pretty, and seeing the sunrise over this pond makes up for the geese that were actively mocking my slow pace.

    8. End of the Trail Half Marathon (2:15)–what a difference a PLAN makes!  This is a specacular, well organized, flat, fast, FUN race. I made a last minute decision to use a training plan I had loaded on my watch: 1 mile WU, 3 miles at moderate pace (10:30), then 1k run/90 second rest intervals.  It worked like a charm—13 minutes faster than the last half I raced, the first time I landed on the 2:15 mark in YEARS, and the whole race felt so good. PLUS! I got to meet a fellow Nuun Ambassador and see a whole bunch of local friends.

    I would not say I “slay”-ed anything, but I am damn proud of what I accomplished. #BeAwesomeToday

      #9–Sunday afternoon half. The husband and I had spend the weekend out of town visiting the kiddos, and that means that this early morning runner had to begin my run (journey on the struggle bus?) at 2 pm with two laps around the Dry Creek Park 10K loop.  Lessons learned–DRINK YOUR DAMN WATER. I started out the run thirsty, and it got so much worse as time went on.  BUT! I had a very smooth recovery and got to have all the Napa Marathon feels wearing the shirt and thinking about everyone who had run that morning!

    Things I am discovering–I am getting less mentally tough when it comes to these runs.  If I am alone, I have no desire to go fast and can find any excuse in the book to walk. I’m still determined to cover the miles, but there is a definite difference between my times running with peer pressure vs. running and not listening to the book.

    Here’s to getting stronger, perhaps faster, and settling into knocking this challenge out of the park.

    MIA. OMG. WTGDHHH (What the Gosh Darn Heck Happened Here). LOL.

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    Holy cow. It has been a long time.

    Just kidding. I still spin and run obsessively.

    I have a big birthday coming up at the end of this year, and I am trying not to feel down about it. MID LIFE CRISIS, Y’ALL. So I’m listing the good. Luckily, it comes as an update on what I’ve done over the last 2 years.

    • I still run a lot. I have run the Napa Valley Marathon (again–did I post a re-cap? Maybe I will. It was a trip); the Two Cities Half (the Clovis one! Tequila at mile 8!); The Kiawah Island Half (best birthday weekend a girl could have imagined); The End of the Trail race (both the 10k in 2018 and the half in 2019); The Santa Rosa Half (I left off with training for the full. That….didn’t happen. Oops.); a bunch of 5ks, 4 milers, 15ks, etc. Plus a LOT of long miles solo with me and my favorite podcasts or books.

    Sometimes I run. Sometimes I fly.

    • I still lead spin classes. Over the last 6 years (SIX YEARS??!?!?) my class profiles have whittled themselves down to about 12 different, really solid profiles that I rotate through with whatever music is speaking to me at the time. Spoiler alert: Not EDM.

    What’s a holiday spin class without a kindergarten style visual aid?

    • I still sew a lot. Do I sew fun things for myself? LOLOLOLOLOL. But I sew beautiful things, beautiful dresses, working with beautiful brides who for some reason believe in me when I tell them it is all going to be ok and they will both look and feel exactly the way they want to look and feel on their big day. And the STORIES!

    So that about covers basic updates. My goal is to write down all those race recaps I’ve been dragging my feet on, get more spinning profiles out there( maybe it will help inspire others in the oh-crap-what-are-we-going-to-do-for-spin-tomorrow rut.), all the amazing stories that come from being the safe person who gets to bond with brides before her big day, recap my current running challenges, and pretend the wider world cares deeply about what I’m doing.

    Will puppy pictures inspire you to check in more?

    But mostly? This a record for me. If my Jesuit education taught me anything, it’s that in reflection we can always find the lessons to lead us forward.

    Want more regular updates? Find me on Instagram or Facebook at spinrunsew.

    Want to see something specific? Comment below and let me know!

    Hell of a Half! 

    Picture this:  
    A dark December night. I’m flush with birthday cash (ok, not really). I had an enjoyable time drinking some beers at happy hour. I came home to discover that there was a COUPON CODE for 10 dollars off for the Hell of a Half marathon. Fueled by some General Sherman IPA, it was a no brainer. I signed up.  
    And promptly forgot. 

    The culprit. Also the best beer in the world.


    I was genuinely surprised when I was flipping through my Facebook in March to discover that I had not one, but two races on the calendar for August.  

    The Hell of a Half is a race I’ve always wanted to do, but I always had a reason not to (some good, like my sister getting married that weekend, husband having surgery; some lame, like running a different race the next day and not wanting to do both.) So this is awesome, right?  
    The race lives up to its name–it is a 13 mile loop through the beautiful sun scorched, completely unshaded foothills of the Sierras that starts at 7 am (because why not start when the sun is UP.) It has two big hills (one from about mile 4.5 – 6, and another from 9ish – 10.3ish.) So how do you train for this? Sleep in and start at least one 6-8 mile run/week after 7 am. 

    Sleeping in felt amazing. The last few miles of the those runs? Not so much. 
    But it WORKED. 

    Flat Runner! Some people think these pictures are stupid, but they are an awesome reference to make sure I’m not forgetting anything.


    I woke up at 430, made some coffee, drank some Nuun, sunscreened up, and jumped in my car for the hour drive to the race. The jury is still out if the TWO Starbucks bagels I ate were a bad idea (perhaps, but if I discovered anything over the summer running season, it’s thou shalt not run when hungry. )
    I appreciated that the park was easy to find, and there was easy street parking very close. Also, the portapotties were set up in two rows facing each other (a poop chute, if you will.)–it is the most efficient funneling of race participants to take care of their restroom needs I have ever seen. 

    Start line selfie


    So the race. It was lovely. The first 3 were an easy loop through town, the hills were long (but didn’t really feel that hard.) it was hot (but hooray for acclimation.) The water stops were awesome, with volunteers with ice buckets and sponges to squeeze over your head to cool you off.

    I was pretty spaced out during this race, and lost a mile somewhere between 4-6.  

    My head was at mile 8, but my watch was at 9.3! Yay!!


    I crossed the finish line at 2:30 ish. That is my second slowest time, but I’m pleased (not bad for a race with a portapotty and a “supersoak my back with ice water please” breaks, and nominal (only through the water stops and 3 30 second breaks on the hills) walking). The whole race felt strong. Every single step felt good–my legs never really fatigued, I didn’t get any weird muscle soreness, and I got to wear a well vented but seriously bright hat. 

    Chair not pictured


    And crossing the finish line and having someone hand you a medal, camping chair, and wineglass? Badass. The volunteers who made the post race pancakes even promised they were made with love. 

    This chocolate milk came from a bucket where it was covered with crushed ice. This gets high marks from me, because chocolate milk is gross if it is at any temperature other than ice cold


    I loved this race, but I’ am not convinced I would do it again. The swag is awesome, but a bit excessive to do the race more than once. But is there really a price on having someone literally hand you a place to sit after running 13 miles?  
    Training in the heat to get ready for this race made me feel like such a badass. If you have the chance to do this, I would jump on the train. Hell of a good time. 

    TODAY IS THE DAY! 

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    Marathon training starts today!  

    I am trying not to feel disappointed over the Napa experience. My goal was to enjoy training (I did!) and enjoy the experience (I did!) BUT–I have a problem with pushing myself into being uncomfortable. I just plain DON’T push myself unless I have some peer pressure. 


    Lifting weights on my own? LOL, I’ll do one set then call it a day. 

    Running? I won’t push my pace unless I have someone on my side to keep me honest.

    Lots of people stop 100 feet from the finish line for a photo op, right?

    So during the Napa race, when it got tough I had no one there to push me over the edge to be uncomfortable. Not saying that it wasn’t tough (a distance that far is just plain tough) or didn’t hurt (it kinda did? Who am I kidding. No, not really.) 
    Classic fitness motivation pushes you into the “no pain, no gain” or “Sweat is fat crying” or “Sore today, Sorry tomorrow” or “IF YOU ARE NOT ON THE VERGE OF DEATH BY THE END OF THIS WORKOUT IT DOESN”T COUNT”  I am… not really into that. 
    This is why I found biking a century so freeing. I was genuinely surprised the first time someone asked me what my time was. People do this for time and not the snack table? Team snack table right here. 


    So I’m trying to focus my goals for this marathon this week. I haven’t met anyone who is specifically training for this marathon, but I am hoping that doesn’t deter me from staying on task. 

    Even though this little girl is my favorite pacer, her run 200 feet and take a pee break would not be ideal for most training runs


    1) I am about 15 lbs above my ideal racing weight. I think I can drop about 10, especially if I…

    2) Clean up my diet. The husband and I just joined the Fresh 20 (www.fresh20.com), and I’m all ready in love. Someone giving me a shopping list and telling me what to buy, what meals to make in what order, and upping my veggie intake with minimal effort or planning on my part? Yes please. 

    3) Do some damn speed work. My running club has track workouts Wednesday nights at a time that comes right after spin, so it would be tough (especially because Wednesday is a twoaday, and adding one more? Eek!)

    4) NOT BLOW OFF MID WEEK RUNS. This should be easier to accomplish over the summer. 

    5) Work toward a PR. That would be 5:06. A sub 5 would be better. A sub 4:45 would send me into a tailspin of happiness.  
    So any thoughts or advice, running land? I could use it.  

    100 Miles of Keeping it Classic

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    A few weeks ago, one of my new cycling BFFs said to me “if you can complete a century, you can do anything. And kid, you got 100 miles in you.” Perhaps I was flattered by the fact he realized how youthful I am (I’m not), but that comment made a world of difference in my mental game tackling the California Classic century ride.

    I prepared like I would for any of my running events – set all my stuff out the night before, avoided looking too closely at any of the details of the route (team ignorance is bliss), and continued hydrating like a boss. I’m so thankful for friends to of done feats like this before who were sounding boards for my dumb questions:  should I bring a small external battery for my phone (yes); should I play music out loud from my phone (don’t be that girl); and do people wear throwaway clothes at the start of bike races (no one knew that answer, but it did not seem to be a thing yesterday)


    I got up at 5:15, had my usual long run breakfast, got dressed and loaded up my bike and headed off to the start line. I’m thankful this event takes place at a minor-league ballpark, so the parking was easy and close to the start line. Also, a local bike shop had a pump you up station for which I am eternally grateful because I suck at that. 


    It was so freaking cold at the start. Only about 48°, but in a short sleeve jersey and shorts I was freezing. I chatted with some of my spin class friends (who were doing the metric), and then we were off. We have plenty of time to finish our conversation .6 miles in, when the race came to a dead halt as we waited for a train.


    The first 15 miles of the race consisted of snaking through downtown and then getting on the freeway. The first 4 miles had felt so crowded and slow, and it was amazing getting on that wide open, smooth road and cruising along for 10 miles. 


    After the first rest stop (about mile 16), the mini metric headed back towards downtown well the metric and century headed out to the country. The first 30 miles were completely smooth and easy – fairly flat, fairly fast, and on roads on the outskirts of town with amazing bike lanes. I don’t remember much about this part of the race because it was smooth and peaceful and easy. 

    Shortly after the 30 mile mark, the metric broke off and the full century headed into the foothills. About mile 40 is when the climbing began. All of the rain California has had this winter has turned the foothills into an absolutely breathtaking landscape. I have never seen California look this beautiful. Miles 40 to 50 were the hardest. It included approximately 2000 feet of elevation gain over a few major hills. The big one – right around the 48 to 51 mile mark – was at 6 to 7% grade according to Strava. I was not alone and getting off my bike and walking portions of it. 

    After cresting the top of the big hill, and after a brief dissent, I made it to the next rest stop where I almost cried with happiness because they had sub sandwiches there. I’ve got nothing against uncrustables, bagels, or bananas, but hot damn that was delicious. 

    After this rest stop, was about 10 miles net downhill (fun!). However, at this time my booty began to hurt (chafe?) and it took a while for me to find that perfect combination between position on the bike and blessed ass numbing from the vibration on the road. The vibration on the road also did a number on my hands and trapezius muscles as well.  Ouch.  

    The miles between 60 and 85 were lovely. I got a antsy between trying to find a position on the bike that was comfortable for my booty, hands, and shoulders ( I never did quite achieve that), but the view was stunning and the weather absolutely perfect. 
    DH was volunteering for the race (he’s a radio guy), and seeing him at the mile 85 rooftop give me life. It was so awesome to roll up and have someone filling me a cup of water,  handing me a Diet Coke and offering to rub my shoulders.  It was awesome.

    The end of the race was kind of lame. My city is not known for the charm of its urban center, and the last 7 miles were on bike lanes in afternoon traffic. The downside to this? I hit every goddamn red light–which meant I had to unclip my shoes and peel my aching back side off the seat,  only to repeat the process a quarter-mile later.

    The finish line was lonely. The arch with up, and I’m thankful the beer garden for a local brewery faced the finish line so at least someone noticed I was crossing it, but there were no race representative or signs out there. So I just kept biking to my car. 

    I had just lifted up my bike to load it when I realized I never got my damn medal. The thought of getting back on my bicycle (my poor booty) and circling the stadium to see where the %#&@ the party was happening made me want to cry.  But I did it. When I found the  stadium entrance where they were handing out medals, I asked the girl who gave me mine why they had no one directing people to the other end of the ballpark. “Oh, it’s so late.”

    WTMF. 

    I briefly walked inside the stadium to see if I could get some of the wonderful barbecue/ice cream that was promised, but they were taking everything down a full one hour before the brochure said they would close everything, and a half hour before the cut off time for the race.

    Thanks to my husband (the radio guy) I know for a fact that over 30 people finished after I did.  WHY IS THERE NO LOVE FOR THE SLOW


    Overall, it was a gorgeous race and the weather was perfect.  So the lack of food is a bummer, but within 15 min I was home eating enchiladas which was awesome.  

    Speaking of awesome–the dread I felt getting on a spin bike to teach this morning was not.  One full week of “rest” (lol) before training for Santa Rosa begins! 

    Run Napa, Run Happy

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    Hi guys!  I ran a marathon this weekend, which is something I swore I would never ever do again.  Crazy how that works, right? 

    I ran my first marathon in San Francisco in 2008. I knew so little about running strategy or tools that make runs and recovery nicer.  You just run, right? Nutrition? Body glide? Compression socks?  None of these were something I used.  Real runners only pause for a moment at a water fountain!

    This was my summer of 2008. It is also a wonderful book by Mark Remy.


    I trained in the heat of summer in the flat, flat valley–it did not occur to me that there would be hills until my friend mentioned it on the drive up to the race. I HATED HATED HATED it with the fire of the thousand blazing suns that made me miserable for four months of godforsaken 4 am wake ups to run 2-3 hours 4x week. (Cross training? What?) 

    Accurate depiction of me most mornings that summer.

    I was so inspired to take on another one after seeing so many people train last summer–I considered running Santa Rosa last August, but couldn’t pull the trigger because I would have had zero IRL support on the day of the race–I envisioned myself immobile on park bench, hoping the stranger I gave $20 to would return with a burrito to help me pass the time until my SIL’s flight got in and she could help my sorry sorry self. 

    My main goal was to enjoy training, and I did. I enjoyed it immensely. I used an app that  automatically synced to my phone’s calendar (to give me a sense of what to do when) and then modified the runs to suit me (long runs were based on time, and I replaced it with mileage goals)
    I was LAZY about this training. I hit every long run with progressive distances (building up so I had time for three 20+ milers), but I did blow off a significant number of midweek runs and replaced it with spin. The cross training kept me sane and injury free, but did nothing for my speed.  

    So many sunrises!


    So the race! After a fitful night of sleep, I woke up, got dressed, and grabbed my oatmeal and coffee, and drove to the parking (about a half hour filled with a show tune sing along), and rode the bus to the start.  The air temperature was below 40, with an   ice cold monsoonal wind and rain that briefly picked up as I left the bus to hit the portapotty. That part of the storm passed quickly, but I remained chilly.  

    Flat runner!

    I truly don’t remember much of the first 13 miles. It was so enjoyable. I met up with a local friend about mile 9 and ran with her for a bit. I started doing run/walk intervals in earnest about mile 14 (4 run, 1 walk). I can’t decide if I should have started them sooner (most training runs I began with them at mile 6/7) or just held off. 

    Mile 3 selfie


    With the varying weather, it was super hard for my body to regulate my body temp. I wore a long sleeve over a tank, and kept switching. 

    About mile 19, my nutrition started a war in my stomach (puking would have felt so good), but I think it was largely a product of being overheated and uncomfortable–when I took my wet, heavy long sleeve off, I felt less claustrophobic and my stomach calmed down. 

    Wine wine everywhere and not a drop to drink at the plentiful water stops


    I did a lot of math on the long hill between 19/20. I figured that if I could hit mile 21.5 at the 4 hour mark I could have a chance at hitting my A goal of a sub 5. As I got closer and tilt of the road continued to beat up my left hip, I hit the fork in the road–hit my A goal of a sub 5 race (I was on track if I could hold a 12 min mile, which was a stretch and would HURT. See, the great Tiburon Half shit show of 2015 (where I completely fell apart emotionally because I could not hit my goal on my exhausted legs despite my best efforts) or I could let go, embrace the walk breaks, and do everything I could to make the last 5 miles happy (a la the great Two Cities  Half redemption run of 2015, a mere 28 days after Tiburon)

    Don’t let this victorious leap fool you. I was miserable at the end of the Tiburon half. I was upset, heartbroken, and toting around a great big bucket of failure.


    I chose to run happy. It was the best. 
    Except Mile 22 which was f***ing cold. Enjoyable, but cold. 

    I ran it in to find that my brother, SIL and 3 year old niece were waiting for me with a sign. It was so awesome, and my niece was so excited.* 

    * The excitement could have been for the chocolate milk.

    I finished under my c goal (<5:30). I haven’t looked at my time, but don’t really plan on it. It was such a wonderful weekend–everything I hoped it would be. You could feel the love, joy, sadness, support, everything so acutely. 

    Oh, and I was suckered into signing up for the Santa Rosa marathon in August with their $20 off registration and bottle of wine offer at the expos. Bottoms up! 

    Ashleigh Lawrence

    Ashleigh Lawrence - Personal Trainer and Strength Coach

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